If you really want to be satisfied in life, ask God, “What are you calling me to do?”
We often talk about “vocations” in the Catholic Church, so this week I would like to spend time explaining what they are and why they are so important.
The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word vocatio, which means “summons.” This past weekend I had the joy of ordaining four men who heard God summoning them to the priesthood when they prayerfully listened for his call in their hearts. My own heart was flooded with the joy of Jesus Christ to see men respond to the call to give up everything and follow him, to serve the faithful of northern Colorado.
Every one of us has a primary vocation that defines our state in life. Some people are called to marriage, some men are chosen for holy orders, and some people are chosen for religious life or the single life. The Father has a definite vocation and particular plan for every human being that brings happiness and fulfillment. Every human being, whether they are aware of it or not, is made for God.
Father Joseph Doman, one of the four men I ordained a priest this past Saturday, described his decision to answer God’s call as “freeing.” There is “a tremendous freedom and joy that comes from giving your life away irrevocably, from not having any more options,” he said.
“Giving your life away irrevocably seems to be the opposite of freedom: being chained to one something until death. But the reality is that this gift of self is the fulfillment of freedom. I’ve never felt more free in my life.”
It is beautiful to see how people flourish when they respond to God’s call with generosity!
In his message for this year’s World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis invites all of us “to listen to the voice of Christ that rings out in the Church and to understand what their own vocation is.” We are made to give ourselves totally to God, and if we listen for his voice in the quiet of our hearts he shows us how we will find the greatest fulfillment.
Over the last several months I have also celebrated the weddings of friends who have heard God inviting them to marriage. As a bishop, one of the things that brings me great joy is to celebrate the weddings of couples who are drawn to marriage not just because they love their future spouse but because they are also eager to respond to God’s call.
A question I always ask a couple prior to their marriage is, “Is it the Father’s will that you marry Tom or Ann?” It is a question that sometimes catches people off-guard, yet it is an essential question for a person of faith, for it reveals the Father’s providential love in bringing a man and woman together in his divine plan for their life, just as he brought Adam and Eve together, and Mary and Joseph together.
If I only spoke of the joys of living out God’s vocation, though, I would not be telling the whole story. The kind of love that following Christ requires, no matter your vocation, is sacrificial. Every state of life follows the way of the Cross and Resurrection. There will be times of trial and tribulation and there will be times of great joy just as there was in Jesus’ life. One has only to look at the lives of the saints to see the truth in the sacrificial nature of love.
Many people experience a “honeymoon period” when they first resolve to answer the Lord’s call, but he loves us too much not to purify us further through life’s trials. That is why St. James says, “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing” (1: 2-4). Through your vocation, God is preparing you for eternal life.
It is also important to recognize that how we live our vocations impacts the future. Vocations do not come from out of nowhere. They are like seeds that are planted in our hearts by God, and they grow as they are nurtured in our families.
What a blessing it is to hear how a priest acquired the virtues that make him a good priest from his father, or how a newly married woman was inspired by the heroic sacrifices of her own mother! Last year I received the vows of some Sisters for Life and I was able to see how these women were inspired to follow the path of consecrated life by the experience of the community and its unique charism. I will never forget the faces of those sisters. Their joy was palpable as they came forward to become brides of Christ and surrender their lives in service.
We have just celebrated the ordination of four new priests and the wedding season is upon us. I pray that as people around the archdiocese consider their future, they will prayerfully seek God’s plan. Do not be afraid to ask a holy priest, sister, consecrated lay person or married couple for their guidance. Ask the Holy Spirit, “What is the Father’s plan for my life?”
“Be not afraid!” I assure you that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit desire your happiness, and if you trust in God and make your life a total self-gift to him, you will not be disappointed.